Summer 2017

Hidden no more


While listening to a lecture on hidden disabilities at the University of Minnesota Rochester (UMR), Isaiah Grafe, ’19, connected with the topic. He was born deaf, received cochlear implants at age 4, and went through 10 years of speech therapy.  

Grafe wanted to do something to inform others about deafness and other hidden disabilities such as depression, anxiety, and ADHD, which affect one in five people. So he created an exhibit called “Pulling Back the Curtain on Hidden Disabilities” for display across Rochester. It consisted of interactive boxes that, when a curtain was pulled back, revealed personal stories and facts. A Finish in Four scholar majoring in radiography, Grafe earned a UMR Difference Maker Award for his effort. 

Why create the exhibit?

A good portion of people didn’t realize I was deaf unless I informed them otherwise. I wanted to show the public how prevalent hidden disabilities are. I also hope people with hidden disabilities won’t feel as marginalized for not being recognized.

Will it be displayed elsewhere? 

We have received several requests. We might rotate the exhibit across the University of Minnesota campuses. 

What impact has this had?

The ripples the project made were larger than I thought they would be. We were featured in a local newspaper and by a news station. I personally witnessed the impact by watching people of all ages stop to pull back the curtains at different boxes. I think it provided some thought-provoking reflection.